Chanting “Om mane padme hum”, spinning the prayer wheel and rosary are common visuals at any place at any time of the day in Ladakh. In India, any pious moment cannot be complete without observing a sacrifice, be it in the form of renouncing one’s most valuable possession or just renouncing a meal for a day! Keeping a fast is an important part of the Indian culture and tradition. It basically signifies willingly abstaining oneself from eating certain or any kind of food, drink or both. It is known as “vrat” in India.
This period of fasting varies from ritual to ritual, i.e. it could be restricted or extend for 24 hours. People in India may keep a fast for varied reasons, the most important ones relate to religion and spiritual aspects.
One such ritual was observed in Ladakh too by the name of NAYANAS (pronounced “nenis”) on May 28th and 29th 2012.
I had the privilege to capture some images from the premises of the Soma Gompa situated in the heart of the market place in Leh. During this festival, locals visit the gompa and recite mantras. Some who observe nayanas also choose to live overnight in the gompa, pray and read religious texts all day. The first day is spent by consuming just one meal for the day. Tea- salted and sweet is served to people fasting inside the monastery. The second day, absolute silence is observed by the devotees. Some choose to talk, but others remain silent the whole day.
Some staunch ones do not eat and drink the whole day for all the three days. Glimpses here show the ambience inside the monastery and outside too.
Written and photographed by: Kalpana Chatterjee